Prepare your Home for Flooding
Prepping homes for hurricanes is at the forefront of Florida residents’ minds. However, for many homeowners, equally important is planning for potential flooding. Flooding is the most common and damaging natural disaster in the country. In Florida, of course, the flood risk is higher due to the state’s frequency of storms and proximity to water.
The first step in preparing your home for a flood is to determine whether you live in a flood zone or a flood-prone area. Easiest way to find out is to plug your address into FEMA’s Flood Map.
If you are on the map, we recommend purchasing proper flood insurance. Even though Florida homes are prone to flooding, most homeowners’ insurance policies do NOT cover flood damage costs. Flood insurance is available to homeowners through the National Flood Insurance Program and through private insurers. Check with a local insurance agent about proper coverage. Note: Some flood policies can take 30 days to go into effect so don’t wait until there’s a storm on the horizon.
Once a storm that may bring flood waters is imminent, taking these precautions may help safeguard your home:
If you haven’t already done so, take “before” photos. Take photos and videos of all major household items and valuables. It’s also a good idea to record serial numbers for major appliances and keep a file of receipts available for major household purchases. Retain these images in a safe place as they will be important if you have to file and insurance claim.
Clear out drains and gutters so they will work properly. Debris, such as leaves and other organic material can build up and eventually reduce water flow away from your home. If the gutter system is blocked, the result could be water leakage or flooding inside your home.
Sandbag the doors of your home to help reduce the amount of water entering your property. Sandbags do not create a seal around your doorways but rather work to divert water away from entryways.
Move furniture, valuables and important documents to a safe place. Copies of critical documents like birth certificates or insurance policies should be stored in a waterproof safety box. Consider creating a “go bag” with emergency supplies (including medication) in case you need to evacuate quickly.
Install check valves in sewer lines to prevent floodwaters from backing up. Check valves (also called flap valves) allow sewage to flow out, but then close to prevent sewage from flowing in the reverse direction.
If asked to evacuate, vacate your property and head for higher ground. Flood waters can be turbulent and powerful. Just six inches of moving water can sweep you off your feet.
Once the flood waters have begun to recede or when you can safely return to your property:
Call your insurance agent to start a claim. National Flood Insurance Program does not require a disaster declaration. Flood insurance claims can be filed anytime your property experiences flooding impacts and can cover both a property and its contents. Claims can be filed in the event of losses directly caused by a flooding event which is defined as any flooding that affects two ore more acres of land or two or more properties.
Photograph everything. Photos tell 1,000 words and the images will be the proof needed to validate your claim.
After taking photos, immediately throw away flooded items that pose a health risk, such as perishable food items, clothing, cushions and pillows.
Note that the National Flood Insurance Program does not cover damage from mold. Policyholders are strongly encouraged to begin cleanup and documentation immediately after a flood to prevent the growth and spread of mold.
When it comes time to rebuild and reconstruct, keep the following in mind:
Hire the correct and vetted contractors. Don’t fall victim to restoration companies coming from out of state who prey on flood victims.
Don’t sign any contracts without reading and understanding the documents, especially the assignment of benefits.
Be patient. Rebuilds and reconstruction can take time after large losses and catastrophic weather events.
Hopefully, you never experience a flood event. But preparing your home, just in case, will not only give you peace of mind, but better equip you in the event that disaster strikes.